Friday, September 18, 2009

My, How Times Have Changed

I know I haven't put anything down in awhile, but it seems to me that my stained glass business is in a much different place than when I first started this blog. Back then I was talking about being 'covered up' and now it's as if someone threw a switch about a year ago and turned off my business. I've had a few small jobs that make me keep the doors open but really, It's never been this dry in over 20 years.

I'm sure it's because Stained Glass is so dependent on the housing market and of course that's collapsed completely. And also when it's time to cut back on expenses well, who really needs the stuff I make anyway.

And that has always been the source of a certain amount of ambivalence on my part. As a carpenter I always knew that I was providing a necessary service. It's a noble profession, hell, Jesus was a carpenter. But no one in the bible, or anywhere else in literature as far as I can tell, was a Stained Glass artisan.

Of course I'm an artist, but I've never had that consuming artistic fire, that "I would die for my art!" attitude. It's always been something I enjoyed doing and was good at but I never felt I had anything to "say" in art.

And Stained Glass artisans, with a few - very few actually - notable exceptions, are decorative artists at best. We decorate homes. We are often charged with reproducing a beloved scene, or a quilt pattern, or perhaps a family pet. We are constantly being constrained to match the carpet or the sofa or the bedspread for God's sake. The first time I was given free rein to design a transom to suit the home owner's personality, I was so intoxicated with the prospect that I was frozen into immobility for a time. OK, I know this only happens to us in the lower ranks; Narcissus Quagliata probably never gets the "Oh and I love peach, could you put some peach in it?" rap.

But really this feeling that what I was producing was essentially landfill was at it's peak during art festival season. Now, we never did a lot of art shows 4 or maybe 5 a year at the most. But the stuff we had to crank out just depressed the hell out of me. In order to hit those price points below $30 we had to produce simple designs with few pieces that could be cranked out like an assembly line. I was always trying to reduce the number of cuts, usually degrading the design in order to keep pieces affordable. We never really got into the little suction cup sun catchers but still...

Well now our situation has changed dramatically; we're much more financially secure and no longer do the art show circuit - thank God - and I'm looking to find a way to only do jobs that interest me. (not sure exactly how to go about that, can I just sniff and tell a client "So sorry, old chum, but this project bores me?") We have a few pieces in the Kentucky Artisan's Center in Berea and when - and if - the bug to produce items on spec hits I'll look to galleries to sell my work.



  1. I totally understand your blog post the stained glass market is incredibly dry for me too.. Check out my website!

    Stained Glass Brighton

  2. Good News! In December we noticed a bit of a shift. People we'd given bids to 6 months previously were getting back in touch with us and now in January, we stopped by the bookstore one evening. The parking lot was packed. We both looked at each other and remembered how empty the parking lots were last year at this time.
    My blog My Stained Glass Adventures is at and we have a website which is our online portfolio. We also do which is about tips for other stained glass artists. I would love it if you'd visit and let me know what you think!

  3. I have just found Joe's blog and the last posting was quite a while ago, but resonates with me too.

    I have been in business since 1989, actively teaching and full time since 1997. The economy has hit me hard, and I can't reduce myself to suncatcher dreck either. If I WAS a carpenter at least I'd have a marketable skill that people need, instead of glass that as you say, people don't need, they just want it for decorative value.

    I find that teaching fills in the gaps, but even that has dried up somewhat. I have a class that we have rescheduled twice now because of the snowstorms; hopefully that class will draw some new students for me.

    I just started a blog and am searching out other stained glass blogs to see what is out there. I love looking at what other glass enthusiasts are doing, and it's nice to share. sounds as if most of us are experiencing similar things. after reading Dave's blog, I had to laugh at his thoughts on clients. You just can't win them all. i really think that what happens is that some people are indecisive, and believe me you are better off NOT having them as clients. I hope that Joe's last post doesn't mean that he has given up on glass! anyway, my website is and my blog is
    visit me and any and all comments are welcome.

  4. Our sales have been slow too. But in August 2009 I had a good month, then bad Sept. Sales have flipped between good and bad since then. In the past, when sales have flip flopped, they (sales) will stabilize in the near future. As of March, I am covered up in work. It looks like the economy is turning.

    Studios who make it through the difficult times, come out better in the long run for several reasons. 1) They have cut their budget and now have a lower overhead. They can be more competitive. 2) They have learned to work more efficiently. 3)They have forced themselves to grow in other areas - like writing a blog. 4) The recession has forced studio who do not make quality windows to close. That means less competition.

    Congratulations, you have made it.

    Laura Goff Parham
    State of the Art, Inc
    Stained Glass Studio
    Knoxville, TN

    PS - I started a blog too. But it is so difficult to post on a regular basis.

  5. yeah I think the economy is slowly - oh sooooo slowly - turning around. We've gotten a few good commissions lately and several "nibbles". So be of good cheer, there's light at the end of this tunnel. (I think)


  6. Thanks for all of the great information. I am looking for someone who does church stained glass windows . Do you guys have any suggestions on where to look? Thanks for all the help and keep the posts coming.